“I’m warning everyone – the book is a bit heavy. It’s like a Bible.”
Juyoung Kang talks about the list of whiskeys and spirits at Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico Steakhouse. This tome, affectionately known as the “Book of Whiskey” (Scottish style – without the “e”), represents not only one of the best collections in Las Vegas, but the entire United States. As the restaurant’s chief mixologist, Kang goes to great lengths to keep everything in order. In addition to the cocktail menu, this remarkable collection just updated – and now spans over 40 pages and features over 700 spirits from nine countries.
Kang is quick to point out that unlike other collections of a similar size, Delmonico Steakhouse actually sells a huge chunk of it. “If I get [an allocation] for the year, I’ll probably be done by the end of the year. “
So what’s big these days? “Bourbon is always a huge hit. Everyone wants bourbon,” she says. “They want every kind of bourbon you can think of. Rye gets really big.” However, the demand for scotch tends to go up and down. She notices that guys often order it when they start turning 30. “They want to try a scotch because they think it’s a grown man’s drink,” she adds, laughing.
Delmonico specializes in hard-to-find verticals – or whiskeys of different ages or editions from the same distillery. Some of her top picks right now include Booker’s 25th Anniversary 10-Year Bourbon, which was limited to just 6,000 bottles when it was released in 2014 (“I still have a few bottles hidden upstairs”) and the next edition of the 10th edition of Parker’s Heritage Bourbon 24 years in bottle (“I was lucky to have two bottles”). A “glued” product follows a set of particularly strict guidelines and regulations during its manufacture. One serving of Chivas Regal Royal Salute 62 Gun Salute sells for $ 535 per serving. He is at least 40 years old.
Kang is one of the most knowledgeable bartenders in Las Vegas, according to Mike Olsen, director of operations at Emeril Lagasse Properties in Las Vegas. “We have a very educated person who can accommodate a guest and who loves whiskey – who studies it, drinks it, loves it and is passionate about it.”
Part of Delmonico’s strategy is to bring in spirits from all over the world. The Scotch list alone includes 10 subcategories, and there are also whiskeys from countries like India, Tasmania and Taiwan. “If it’s out there – anywhere in the world – we’re going to try to pursue it,” Olsen said.
Delmonico Steakhouse opened on the Strip inside the Venetian Resort and Casino 17 years ago, but you don’t develop an incredible arsenal of spirits overnight. Max Solano, a veteran of the Lagasse culinary empire, joined Delmonico Steakhouse in 2009 and was instrumental in shaping the spirits list. “My plan was realistically a five-year plan,” he says. “When I took over the program itself, there were 35 or 40 whiskeys. So I wanted to see what specific categories of whiskey would do well. It turned out that we were getting a request for all kinds. “
Fortunately, Delmonico had the resources – and the support of Lagasse himself – to create the collection, but the spending had to be done strategically, while stocking up promising brands. “I’ve had a lot of grief over the years because our inventory has grown dramatically,” Solano adds. “But in my opinion, it’s not a financial liability. It’s an investment. Historically, spirits have the best profit margin compared to wine and beer.”
Solano finally quit in 2015 and took a job at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, the country’s leading liquor distributor. Kang was brought from the now-closed Blvd Cocktail Company to the LINQ (after a stint in the infamous Commonwealth Laundry Underground Bar) and given the overwhelming task of continuing the bar’s agenda. She says a large part of her job is keeping up to date with current information – herself as well as restaurant patrons – who are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about spirits and beverages. “The demand and the knowledge gained by customers have increased,” she says. “They know a lot more. They study a lot more. Google really helps.”
But don’t believe everything you read online. Sometimes misconceptions need to be corrected. For example, not all bourbons come from Kentucky. It just needs to be produced in the United States and follow certain guidelines, such as being made from a grain blend containing at least 51% corn and aged in charred oak containers. Kang says West Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia are among the states with burgeoning bourbon programs, but Texas might hold the most promise. “They produce a lot, but have a hard time getting it out [of the state]she said. “Seattle is another exploding market. ”
Japanese whiskeys continue to gain popularity – with 12 options currently on offer at Delmonico. Some drinkers see them as exotic or mysterious, although, as Kang points out, Japan is simply a region that tends to go through the same process used to make scotch.
The restaurant has evolved over the years and changed its approach, sometimes in modest ways. For example, flights are no longer offered. Instead, guests can order a full shot or a half shot (at half the price) as a way to experience a wider variety of spirits.
While Delmonico is best known for its wide range of whiskey – including bourbon, rye, and scotch – it would be criminal to overlook its wine collection, which totals around 2,400 different options. Add it up and “this is about the biggest inventory I’ve ever seen,” says Olsen.
As you can imagine, the training is intense, and big on the little details. Captains are required to familiarize themselves with everything that can be poured into a glass, and the restaurant has experienced low employee turnover over the years. “If you’re going to move up to the captain or bartender level, you’ve spent years and years here working up to that position, learning and being exposed to this whole product,” Olsen adds.
There are so many options to choose from, it’s almost criminal not to be adventurous browsing the long list, and Olsen recommends looking for whiskeys made by smaller distilleries. “The craftsmanship, care and practical handling of its making can sometimes be lost when you have too much production,” she says. “When you have smaller craft houses that are really involved in the taste and are part of the whole process, I think the result can be legitimately better.”
It’s hard to disagree.
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